2008 Honda CB1000R First Ride

May 5, 2008
By Marc Potter

Pictures by Howard Boylan and Honda


After undergoing heavy market research with customers in Europe the design brief was to build a compact bike with a torquey engine and great handling.
After undergoing heavy market research with customers in Europe the design brief was to build a compact bike with a torquey engine and great handling.

Unfortunately, Honda is keeping its new super naked for Europe only, but that doesn’t mean our U.S. readers can’t see what their missing. Americans are accustomed to hearing some British blokes called the Stones singing “You can’t always get what you want,” now our pals at MCN give us their rendition with this review on the Honda CB1000R.

Way back in the ’60s, when men had quiffs and woman wore beehives, the Japanese bike manufacturers invaded Europe. Their bikes looked strangely like the ones made in the midlands but they had funny winged logos on the tanks. And they worked come rain or shine.

The copycats were laughed off at first and then makes like Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki started landing on our shores in big numbers, at the right price, with the right kit (like electric starters that worked) and engines that didn’t leak. And they took over the world of motorcycling forever.

It stayed that way for the last 40 years until a small manufacturer in Hinckley started making a bike called the Speed Triple and essentially created the Super Naked bike. Having been the first person in the world to ride the prototype, I remember that moment well. Okay, so the Ducati Monster was the original but that didn’t have the same sort of sports bike horsepower linked with quality suspension and brakes, and the kind of style reminiscent of a crashed GSX-R1100 with bug-eye headlamps.

And now the tables have turned again, as the world’s biggest bike manufacturer looks down from its ivory tower to a small industrial unit in Leicestershire and decides it’s very interested in a bike called the Speed Triple. Combine it with a healthy respect for bikes like the MV Agusta Brutale and the Monster and you’re starting to get the measure of Honda’s new CB1000R.

Big H won’t admit their influences but an off the record chat with a few people confirmed what I just said, and it’s not going on sale in Japan because the emissions laws are so strict it would have to have an exhaust the size of a small car. This bike is for Europe only and that’s where most of the design work and development was done.

Forget the fact it has the same name as the dinosaur CB1000 of the early nineties, or that it’s a spine-framed, FireBlade-engined naked like the now defunct 900 Hornet. This is a whole new bag for Honda. A bike designed with Europe in mind and one that uses a retuned version of the 2007 FireBlade CBR1000RR engine and runs 2008 FireBlade forks, 2008 FireBlade brakes, a beautiful single-sided swingarm and styling tailored to the decor of the very best designer cafes in Milan. In green it looks purposeful, in white it looks as good as anything on the road.

The bike s style and design was created in Europe with a strong influence being “ready to attack” The concept was inspired by a vision to create a bike for Europe by the managers of Honda Europe.
The bike’s style and design was created in Europe with a strong influence being “ready to attack” The concept was inspired by a vision to create a bike for Europe by the managers of Honda Europe.

And then there’s the bike’s heritage. It was developed by Tetsuya Kudoh, the man who was chief engineer and test rider on such bikes as the VFR400, RC30, NR750, CBR600F and VFR750F, so nothing much good in there then. And as such it’s one high-spec piece of kit. The single-sided swingarm is one of the things that gives away the fact this isn’t your average fat and lazy naked bike.

Then there’s the short stubby attitude of the CB100R: the tiny seat unit designed as a token gesture to attract nubile Italian goddess’ who may want to perch on your steed, so to speak. (But in reality no real human would want to sit on the back and you’d never get a tail pack on it, but Honda designed it that way.) It’s all about being purposeful, minimal, and saying to everyone watching that you’re a no compromise kind of guy who likes to ride fast and look good. The CB1000R weighs in wet at 217 kg (478 lbs), which is just 18 kg (40 lbs) more than the super lightweight 2008 Blade and most of that extra weight is in the heavily braced single-sided swingarm.

Check out the swoopy four-spoke rear wheel, the LCD clocks that are claimed to be the most expensive Honda make, the jagged lines of the bodywork and the aggressive ‘ready-to-attack’ stance, and you can tell this is no normal Japanese naked bike. It’s designed to give a sporty ride with the stylish looks of a naked, and it more than delivers.

Undoubtedly it’s a serious bit of kit that aims to do a totally different job to the old Hornet 900, and it’s a bike that I’m slightly afraid of riding when I get handed the keys in the center of Milan on a wet and slippery Saturday morning.

But fearful is not one of the things that enters your head when you start riding the tiny Honda. Filtering through Milan in convoy behind a mad Welshman intent on showing us his knowledge of Milan’s backstreets, the bike is gentle, easy and torquey. The fuelling is perfect, the grunt is huge and I’m already starting to think that for most people, most of the time this engine would be better in a FireBlade than the super-powerful motor de rigeur of bikes that say you’re a real man, even if secretly the amount of horsepower terrifies you. Or is that just me?

Let us know what you think about this article in the Motorcycle USA Forum.

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